Five Easy Pieces
by Carl F. Gauze
Inventions can be such a problem. They're handy, no question, but they clutter our lives and add to our credit card bill. You start depending on them, but they don't work quite as well as you hoped, and then the only thing to do is make ANOTHER invention to fix the first one. It's a career, I tell ya.
So we're hooked. We are all invention junkies. We crave and need new toys, new careers, new drugs. Someone invented Lipotor, and you can eat all the pork rinds you want. Someone invented Ecstasy, so all that noise Eno recorded has an audience. And you can be lost in the woods to a tolerance of ten feet, protected by a micro fiber parka and SPF40 sunscreen, and still be eaten by a bear.
It wasn't until a few hundred years ago that western civilization viewed the world in terms of planned change or planned improvement. Previously, life remained relatively static in terms of new objects appearing to help the daily chores, and the word "technology" as a popular idiom is really only a development of the 20th century. Now, of course, we expect computers and frozen dinners and heart valves to be much better next year. And they will be, with genuine improvements, and not just bigger tail fins and a new ad campaign.
What can we expect for the future? Well, until the Four Horsemen show up (War, Famine, Operating System Incompatibility, and Warranty Expiration), plan on more and better stuff, and nowhere to store it. That's the dilemma of our lives -- you can get almost anything you can conceive of, but moving to a new apartment becomes a significant life event. But just because YOU don't have any closet space doesn't mean I can't throw a few ideas against the fan and see what sticks.
Let's start with a decent spam filter, one that applies electric shock to the genitals of the sender proportional to the number of people annoyed. Each returned spam would apply about a tenth of a volt. If 1000 think it's junk, respond, 100 volts -- a nasty but survivable jolt. 100,000 PO'd recipients, 10,000 volts -- total vaporization of the offending organization. Junk e-mail solved.
Next, I could use a cell phone jammer with a range of about 20 feet. You plug it in your cigarette lighter in your car (Do they still make car lighters?), and every jerk with an SUV and a cell phone has to hang up and redial if he gets near you on I-4. If enough of us vote with our wallets for this, a serious problem can be solved with no legislation. And if you did break down, you walk ten steps from the road and you can still get help.
Yard work is still such a chore, and NASA has made such strides in automating robotic vehicles. We need an automated self-propelled neural network leaf blower. It would come out of your garage, blow all the leaves onto the neighbor's yard, and then retire. Later, the neighbor's machine will come out and do their lawn. Obviously, the bigger the motor, the better. Everyone gets a clean sidewalk, plus shows off how much they can spend on annoying gadgets. And if you neighbor has a barky dog, go away for a weekend and program the thing to run at 3 AM.
And speaking of barking dogs, it's a proven fact that owning a dog makes people go deaf. Try knocking on the door of someone with a beagle. "Oh, is that MY dog barking? I'm so sorry…" But they're not, they just like the sound. Now, American native cleverness can solve this problem. If you put a big ultrasonic speaker up in your eaves and cranked about 100 watts of 25 kilohertz, it drives a dog nuts. Either run this all day while you're at work and wear out the dog's vocal cords, or run it at night and the owner will strangle the dog himself.
Sure, I'd like to see a cure for world hunger or abundant free energy or one of those Star Trek transporter thingies, but I'm not counting on it. It's probably better to focus on the problems we can solve at hand rather than attempt the impossible. Like an easy to remove cellophane wrapper for CDs.